Basic Breakdown

Pans vs Tubes

Basic Breakdown: Pans vs Tubes


Watercolour painting is one of the three main painting methods available to the modern artist with the others being oil and acrylic. Of the three mediums it is perhaps the most accessible but least forgiving. Extremely popular with hobbyists, illustrators and fine artists alike. Watercolour paint is found in two distinct formats, this blog aims to highlight the differences between them and provide a reasonable explanation for the use of both. 

What is paint?


Before we compare the difference, we must understand what paint actually is - Paint in its simplest form is merely colour and glue added together to make a paste or block of colour. This paste can then be applied to a surface. Watercolour paint is more specifically made by mixing pigment with gum arabic and a small amount of glycerin. 



Is the paint in pans and tubes the same?

Yes, once the paint mixture is together it can then be put into tubes where it retains the paste like consistency or left to dry, before being cut into small rectangles called pans.The paint within a pan and a tube is identical and would produce near enough the same effects when used.


If the paint is the same, what is the difference between them?

Typically those who mix their own colours would use tubes as the direct application of colour is crucial in maintaining specific colour mixes. For many it is easier to squeeze the desired amount of colour from a tube rather than pick it up from a pan. Additionally most modern companies favour tube watercolours over pans.

On the other hand, pans are quite useful in the right situations. When travelling or working plein air pans can be a useful alternative to tubes as they typically cause less mess and are easier to transport. The pans aren’t messy when dried and can be stored in specific pan cases. Most artists will customise their case with colours that match the palette they desire. This is a good way to have consistent results when working with watercolours. 



Overall pans and tubes do the same thing but in a slightly different way. It is up to the individual to determine which of the two better suits their needs and buy accordingly.

We have some high-quality watercolour products that will go with pans or tubes, Click Here to check out the range.


Image Credits:

Title Image - Sandra Manchester

Image 1 - Nick Collins from Pexels

Image 2 - Ylanite Kopppens from Pexels